In the face of recent rivalries between China and the United States, many forget that at one time, the two countries were entirely at odds with each other. Nixon’s visit to China in February 1972 was a testament to the end of twenty – three years of rivalry between the United States and the People’s Republic of China.
As the official government of China before the second world war, the United States accepted Kuomintang Party. However, misunderstandings developed between Americans and KMT leader Chiang Kai-shek during World War II. Meanwhile, the Americans decided that they needed the help of the Communists to defeat Japan. Thus the Americans established relations with the communist regime of Mao Zedong.
However, Japan’s defeat ended World War II, and from 1946 a civil war broke out between the KMT and the Communists over Chinese rule.
Fearing the spread of communism, America took the Kuomintang side here. By 1949, however, the Communists won, and Chiang Kai-shek fled to Taiwan. Many countries, including the United States, continued to recognize the Republic of China as their official government. The People’s Republic of China was recognized as China’s official government, only the countries belonging to the Communist camp.
After Stalin died in 1953, the new Soviet government’s distance and the Chinese government began to widen. By the mid-1960s, this situation divided the Communist camp. The status became so serious that there was even a border war between China and the Soviet Union. Meanwhile, the United States was increasingly embroiled in the Vietnam War. Nixon ran in the 1968 presidential election, promising to resolve the issue of the Vietnam War.
The United States considered it essential to build relations with China in the current situation. Henry Kissinger, Nixon’s national security adviser, began to work on this.
Here are some of the reasons why the American position has changed. Foremost among these was to pave the way for Americans to become more active in world politics. The American aim here was to take advantage of the Soviet-Chinese divide. At the same time, America’s friendship with China aimed to intimidate the Soviet regime and bring them to a place where it could deal more favorably.
Meanwhile, the United States also needed China’s support to resolve the Vietnam War. The Nixon administration hoped to use Vietnam to reach a negotiated settlement using China and the Soviet Union.
The best sign of renewed relations between the two countries was the 1971 “Ping Pong Diplomacy” event. The invitation extended to the American table tennis team for a tour of China.
A few months later, in July 1971, Kissinger secretly visited China during a visit to Pakistan. It provided the basics for Nixon’s journey.
Nixon landed in Shanghai on February 21 and left for Beijing. He had a brief discussion with Chinese leader Mao Zedong. This became the only discussion between Nixon and Mao. Although Kissinger joined the discussion, it was a special occasion that Secretary of State William Rogers did not attend.
During the talks, Mao explained China’s basic position. Mao expressed his opposition to the rise of power in Japan and Taiwan’s declaration of independence.
Nixon spent a week in China. There he held several talks with Chinese Premier Zhou En-lai. He also visited the Great Wall of China and visited Hangzhou and Shanghai. The main outcome of Nixon’s visit was China’s agreement to resolve the Taiwan issue peacefully. They also discussed the development of trade relations between the United States and China.
In the long run, this new Sino-US friendship influenced the negotiations between the United States and the Soviet Union in the 1970s. During this period, rivalries between China and the Soviet Union continued.
However, diplomatic relations between the United States and the People’s Republic of China were established in 1979. Meanwhile, the development of economic relations between the two countries accelerated with the new reforms in China after 1978.